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Vital Importance of Disaster Preparedness in IT

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

When disaster strikes, answers should already be ready at your fingertips, along with a checklist of who to call, how to reach them, what to tell them, and in what order.

Credit: ShutterstockCredit: ShutterstockThere's no time to think, nor time to plan, when disaster strikes. That's why one must prepare in advance and practice responding, so that when the real thing goes down, reaction is swift, focused and effective. I was forcibly reminded of these truths early this morning, when I placed a call to my Dad at his apartment in Alexandria, VA. "I'm paralyzed," he said. "I'm lying on the floor and I can't move." That was all I needed to hear. "I'm on it, Dad," I said, and I immediately cranked up my emergency response checklist.

First, I called the front desk at his apartment building, and asked them to call 911 and escort the medical technicians to his apartment. Next, I called his girlfriend, who lives on the 7th floor in the same building. Then, I called my sister and told her to get over there ASAP (fortunately, she lives only 2 miles from his apartment building), so she could find out where the ambulance drivers would take him for treatment. Finally, I called his law firm, and asked them to prepare his Durable Power of Medical Attorney for delivery of a certified copy to wherever it might be needed. I did all this within 15 minutes of learning about his situation, and got all the necessary ducks lined up, with their marching orders. Most of that time was spent waiting to reach the next party in line, with as little time spent explaining things as possible.

MORE: Best Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Certifications

The Checklist Is the Thing

At this point, you might be wondering: How did he do that? It's simple: I had an emergency checklist prepared. This should be a key ingredient in any disaster preparedness regime, and falls under the heading of initial response, parties to notify. At the same time, your checklist can include key information to share with those parties, so that they'll know what to do with the notification you give them.

For the front desk, it meant telling them my Dad was a veteran, so the admitting hospital would know my Dad's care fell under the general umbrella of veteran's benefits with a preferential lean toward VA-approved treatment facilities and the VA medical network. For my Dad's girlfriend, it meant telling her where Dad was being admitted and arranging a ride for her from her apartment to the hospital. For my sister, it meant sending her in to talk to the receiving hospital's billing and administration office, so she could tell them he wanted to be transferred to Ft. Belvoir for longer-term care as soon as circumstances would permit. For the law firm, it meant letting them know where Dad was admitted, and requesting them to send the DMPA with Advance Medical Directives to the proper recipient(s). Then I had time to freak out myself and wonder what would happen next. That's the way disasters work, I'm told, and that's reflected in this recent personal experience.

Those who must respond to disasters will benefit most from planning and practice. Only when enough practice has been accumulated to let responders react by habit and muscle memory will they really be able to carry out the tasks that must be enacted as soon as possible once a disaster is declared. For those who work in IT, figuring out how to bring systems back online, or how to block a rampaging malware attack, is something complex and demanding. In fact, such things are best worked out in advance, with the contact checklist and a procedures manual already prepared, so that when some dreaded event occurs, one flips open "the book" and starts working through those items by the numbers. On a small scale, that's what I did this morning. On a larger scale, that's what disaster response teams do as soon as disaster strikes and is recognized.

If you want to learn more about this subject matter, we offer a related certification overview here at Tom's IT Pro, called "Best Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Certifications for 2017." It will lead you to top-tier credentials such as DRI International's Certified Business Continuity Professional and the EC-Council's Disaster Recovery Professional, among numerous others. Because the ounce of prevention helps deal with response so effectively, this is something about which every IT pro needs to know at least the fundamentals, if not a great deal more. Any or all of these certifications will get you and your organization headed in the right direction, and prepare you to deal with disaster when it shows up at your door.